A Long-Range Expressway Vision for Northeastern Illinois

A Long-Range Expressway Vision for Northeastern Illinois

About the Vision

The Chicago Metropolitan Agency for Planning (CMAP) is developing a vision for metropolitan Chicago's expressway system. The vision will be multijurisdictional, multimodal, and bold in its approach.  It will guide future capital investments, coordinate transportation operations, address growing freight congestion, and provide game-changing public transit options for the existing expressway system in northeastern Illinois. 


The aim is to improve the region's competitive edge and drive economic development, while making the system more efficient, reliable, and safe for all users.  CMAP is developing the vision at the request of and with funding from the Illinois Department of Transportation (IDOT) and the Illinois Tollway.


The vision will establish goals for the system's operation and performance.  To help meet those goals, it will also identify new investments, strategies to manage traffic with cutting-edge technologies, and innovative options for public transportation.  The vision will include recommendations for specific 10- to 15-mile stretches of the expressway system, known as corridors, and tactics to reduce the impacts on communities, businesses, and our environment.


To ensure that the vision is achievable, CMAP will define key implementation steps, including new policy and management strategies needed to advance recommendations.  Acknowledging future fiscal and land constraints, the vision will determine what investments are needed to make the existing expressway system better, as opposed to proposing significant expansion.


The vision will include a financial strategy.  Expanded tolling is expected to be a part of that strategy.


Need for the Vision

The vision will chart a bold, long-term course for the region's expressway system to guide future IDOT and Tollway capital programs and operating policies. 


Our regional economy and quality of life depend on a safe, reliable, efficient, and innovative transportation system.  Yet for decades, the Chicago region has struggled to maintain and modernize its expressways in the face of persistent funding gaps.  Many portions of the system are years past their intended lives and need full reconstruction.  While the Great Recession cut down on travel on the region's expressways, congestion has increased in recent years on many segments of the system.  These delays cost the region $7 billion annually in lost fuel and productivity.  Reducing delays will require new ideas, including a fresh approach to mass transit.


Meanwhile, vehicle and communications technologies are changing rapidly, leading to new opportunities and challenges for the expressway system.  In some corridors, truck traffic and nearby population and jobs are growing, compounding congestion.  As the region experiences more frequent, heavier storms and more extreme temperatures, expressways will face greater stress from flooding, heat, and freeze-thaw cycles.  Maintenance needs continue to outpace available revenues.  


As a region, we must study and understand all these factors and more to ensure transportation corridors that support our economy and quality of life for decades to come.

Goals for the Expressway Vision

To reverse these trends, the vision will identify strategies to meet numerous goals:


Support the Region's Economy

  • Promote long-term regional economic growth
  • Improve truck freight movement 
  • Make the system financially sustainable

Enhance Operations

  • Provide game-changing mass transit improvements
  • Prepare for vehicle automation and leverage communication technologies
  • Achieve a state of good repair
  • Improve safety 
  • Address the most intractable congestion issues

Manage Environmental Impacts

  • Improve roadway environmental performance 
  • Reduce negative impacts on neighborhoods 
  • Adapt to a changing climate 
  • Leverage expressway right-of-way for broader needs (such as stormwater management, communications, utilities, and energy production)

Stakeholders and the public will be invited to provide input on these goals, as well as on corridor-specific recommendations, as the vision is being developed.

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